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Hidden harm: Low-risk and moderate-risk gambling

Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation
July 2017


This background paper explores the characteristics, attitudes, beliefs, and gambling behaviour of people engaging in low- and moderate-risk gambling, which accounts for 85 per cent of gambling harm in Victoria.

Research shows many people who gamble consider themselves to be in one or the other of two very distinct camps: you are either in control and gambling ‘responsibly’ or you have a problem – there is nothing in-between. Attitudes towards alcohol were once similar, but this has changed, with a wide spectrum of alcohol-related harm acknowledged outside addiction, from long-term health issues from drinking too much, too often over time, to short-term harm from binge drinking.

Policies and programs related to gambling harm have also tended to focus on the severe end, with little emphasis placed on gamblers at risk of developing serious problems. These people were seen as at risk of harm, rather than already experiencing it.

A recent foundation-funded study, which looked at gambling harm from a public health perspective, found that low-risk and moderate-risk gamblers do experience harm. In fact, they account for 85 per cent of gambling harm in Victoria.

Levels of harm for low-risk gambling are similar to living with moderate anxiety disorder, and levels of harm from moderate-risk gambling are similar to living with moderate alcohol use disorder. While people with severe gambling problems will be suffering significantly more individually than those with fewer gambling problems, the number experiencing less serious harm is much greater.

If most harm from gambling in Victoria occurs in low-risk and moderate-risk gamblers, it is vital we fully understand the characteristics and gambling behaviour of these groups.


2017, Hidden harm: Low-risk and moderate-risk gambling, Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation,

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